We are interested in how cells are coordinated and keep connected with each other in tissues, while undergoing changes in their shape or motility. We aim to understand how cell shape changes, and cell movements are regulated during development. In particular, how cells and epithelial tissues achieve plastic yet sturdy actin cytoskeleton in order to orchestrate their adhesive, protrusive and contractile properties. We are especially keen to understand how actin cytoskeleton turnover is regulated spatially in order to maintain cell-cell junctions and integrity of epithelial sheets during these dynamic processes.
We use wide array of methods, in particular state-of-the-art imaging techniques and image analysis, to study morphogenetic movements of epithelial cells in vivo. The follicular epithelium of fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster provides a powerful genetically tractable model system where cells within same epithelial sheet experience distinct transitions form cuboidal epithelium to columnar and squamous shapes, and some even delaminate and perform invasive cell migration. Furthermore, we aim to verify our findings with cultured mammalian epithelial cell lines/models. This work provides understanding on tissue development, how epithelial integrity is maintained, and may provide knowledge how epithelial cancers may form.